Hands Off Glenfield! “The NHS Belongs to US”

By Sofia Wiking, Leicester West branch of the Socialist Party

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All photos by Lukasz Bemka

The latest protest against the proposed closure of Glenfield Congenital Heart Centre took place in Leicester on 8 July. A year after the threat was first raised, the campaign shows no sign of cooling down. Over 200 people turned up to show their support and listen as parents, campaigners and staff from the centre spoke.

The words of affected parents were particularly touching. One mother talked about how her son was rushed in when his heart failed, and the emergency surgery he received at Glenfield saved his life. A grandmother spoke of how much it meant for her and her family to be able to visit regularly and stay over at the hospital when her grandson was ill. She said “Why is it that people don’t come first, and that all these decisions are made about money.” Her point that the NHS “belongs to us” and “we shouldn’t give our money to people to privatise it” got a resounding response from the audience. It was at times like this when people made the issue political that the crowd really responded.

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Chair of the campaign, Socialist Party member Steve Score, made the point that with the current weakness of the government in Parliament there could never be a better time to press the case for reversing these proposals and winning the battle.

The NHS England consultation about the future of three congenital heart centres across England, including Glenfield, closes on July 17th, and this was a final push to get more people to fill it in. But it was also to tell people that the campaign does not end with the consultation.

In fact, there are risks to the centre if the decision is delayed too long. This week the Manchester specialist heart unit – another of the three earmarked for closure – has been forced to “abruptly end all surgery for adults with serious congenital heart conditions” due to staff shortage. The unit has rapidly collapsed after the NHS England review, and the uncertainty it caused, made it impossible for them to retain and hire new staff.

This is why we cannot afford to let the campaign wind down, but must keep putting pressure on both NHS England and local politicians to save the centre – without a minute to lose!

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